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Commissioner’s Corner

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May 2017

Greetings all, I hope you are all enjoying this lovely spring weather. There has been a lot happening at the TLC, and here are some recent developments I would like to share with you.

Driver Earnings, Industry Economics, and Tipping

  • Last month, the TLC held an all-day hearing, heavily attended by drivers, on labor and other economic conditions in the industries we regulate. Every two years, the TLC holds a hearing on taxicab fare and lease cap rates, but we expanded this hearing for the first time to the economics of the For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) industry as well. The agency appreciates that more than eighty people took the time to give testimony to the Commission, which was very helpful to us in illustrating labor conditions and informing future policies.

    Throughout the hearing, the TLC heard testimony about economic hardship in TLC-regulated industries, including medallion owners who are struggling and FHV driver earnings declining from fares going down, increases in commissions, and high vehicle costs. Testimony was also given by drivers that illustrated confusion about how pay is calculated in the FHV sector. The TLC is following up with drivers across the industry who signed up to speak for additional information that is helpful for the Commission in regards to industry economics.

    In February, the TLC received a petition from the Independent Drivers Guild, a group that represents New York City-based drivers who work for the app company Uber. The petition asked the TLC to propose rules that would require bases that allow passengers who book trips through smartphone apps to have an option in the app to tip.

    The TLC announced in April that it will propose rulemaking on a tipping option for FHV trips. The proposal will require FHV bases to allow passengers to tip drivers using one of the methods of payments they can use to pay for the fare. However, the rules will apply across the FHV sector, which includes both traditional and app-based companies. If an FHV company allows passengers to only pay for a fare using a credit card, passengers must be able to tip the driver using a credit card. For companies that only accept cash, tipping can still be done in cash.

    Although this rule may improve drivers’ earnings in the FHV industry and make it easier for passengers that want to tip to do so, it is important to note that is just one piece in a greater effort to improve drivers’ economic well-being. The work ahead for the TLC is to ensure greater transparency for drivers on how their earnings are calculated, as well as determining what other earning protections are necessary to ensure drivers can earn a fair wage. I will keep you updated on what other steps the agency will take to ensure fair wages for professional drivers in New York City.

    I noted it last month, but would like to highlight again new legislation that was also signed into law to remove barriers to medallion ownership. Two bills removed outdated regulates in the medallion system, and make buying and selling a medallion more like the sale of other TLC licenses, such as base licenses. The legislation also eliminated the separate category of corporate and independent medallions, and there is no longer any limit on the number of medallions any person or entity can own.

    The TLC has eased other onerous regulations as well in the medallion industry, most notably the Owner Must Drive requirement that mandated over 5000 medallion owners to personally drive their taxi over 150 shifts a year. This depressed the price of the owner operator medallions, and was a particular burden for aging owners. Our agency has also extended vehicle retirements and allowed taxicab owners to lease to drivers on a commission basis, which drivers overwhelmingly prefer.

    We always appreciate the testimony and feedback that we have heard across all industries, and thank you for the interest you showed in attending and watching our hearing online.

The TLC’s FOIL team

  • I would like to use this column to highlight the outstanding work of TLC’s Legal Division, which has the responsibility of responding to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) inquiries. The TLC was recognized by the Village Voice as one of the agencies that is most responsive to FOIL requests, with an average response time of under four days despite receiving thousands of requests. These achievements speak to the efficiency, creativity and dedication of both the core FOIL team and others around the agency who support them by providing data or information necessary to respond to requests promptly.

Preventing Driver Fatigue

  • As part of the TLC’s efforts to prevent fatigued driving, FHV trip record data submission requirements have changed. Beginning in June, FHV bases must begin recording both pick-up and drop-off information for all trips that they dispatch. This information must be included in the trip record data for June that is submitted to the TLC. The TLC has been contacting bases to provide guidance for recording and submitting this additional information. If you would like to review the revised instructions for submitting trip record data, you can visit this link.

    Driving while tired is as dangerous as driving drunk. We appreciate the industry’s efforts to make our city’s streets safer for drivers, passengers, and all those they share the street with.

Until next time……drive like your family lives here!

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